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Obiena clinches bronze medal in tough Monaco invitational

The Philippines’ EJ Obiena is presently looking good and feeling fine.

In faraway, beautiful Monaco, Obiena did the country proud by winning the bronze medal in the tough Monaco Diamond League that featured the finest pole vaulters in the world, clearing 5.70 meters in a brave effort that bodes well for the Filipino athlete in the pandemic-stalled Tokyo Olympics.

The first Filipino to qualify for the  Olympics that was rescheduled for next year, Obiena actually tied with Ben Broeders of Belgium, who also made it 5.70 meters, in second place.

But the Belgian cleared right in his first try while the reigning Asian pole vault champion needed a second attempt to record his season-best clearance, handing Broeders the silver medal.

“Third time playing in the Diamond League and finished third. This is a significant event for the Philippines and I’m proud to deliver this podium finish,” said Obiena through his Facebook page.

“Being the only Filipino to play in the Diamond League and the only one to win a medal, I am truly grateful. Thank you for all your prayers, words of encouragement and staying up late to watch. I will try to keep doing better and carry the flag proud,” he added.

Both Obiena and Broeders failed in their three attempts in the 5.80 meters clearance in the competition won by world record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden, who cleared 6 meters.

Duplantis’ arch-rival, American Sam Hendricks, missed the event as the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medalist’s poles failed to arrive on time.

Defending Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil, who beat Obiena for the gold in the 13th Trivento International Meeting in Trieste, Italy on August 4, finished in last place with 5.50 meters.

Currently the national record holder at 5.81 meters that secured a ticket to Tokyo, Obiena flew back to Formia, Italy to continue his Olympic training after bagging the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December.

The coronavirus crisis, however, put on hold Obiena’s usual training routine and he only resumed regular practice last May after authorities opened the Olympic Training Center in Formia.

French Valentin Lavillenie was ruled out of the men’s pole vault competition after testing positive for COVID-19.

Six more Diamond League meets are currently scheduled, in Stockholm, Lausanne, Brussels, Rome, Doha and a yet-to-be-decided venue in China, running    from August 23 until October 17.

(With reports from AFP)